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N.C. health leaders promote testing to stop spread of HIV and STDS

Release Date: October 16, 2009
Contact: Carol Schriber, 919-733-9190

RALEIGH – Several counties in North Carolina are seeing a significant increase in sexually transmitted diseases, particularly syphilis. In Forsyth, Wake, Wayne and Mecklenburg counties the number of syphilis cases from January through September 2009 was at least double the number in the same time period in 2008, according to the latest quarterly North Carolina HIV/STD Surveillance Report from the state’s Division of Public Health.

In an effort to combat this increase, the state is redoubling its efforts to increase education, outreach and testing.

Statewide, a total of 684 cases of early (infectious) syphilis were reported in the state for the first nine months of 2009, nearly twice the number in the same time period last year. From January through September 2008, 359 cases of early syphilis were reported in North Carolina. 

“We are very concerned about this serious increase in early infectious syphilis,” said Evelyn Foust, director of the N.C. Communicable Disease Branch. “We want persons who are sexually active to be tested and to respond to possible symptoms by going to the doctor earlier, rather than later.”

The Division of Public Health has partnered with local health departments to offer free testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Health teams comprised of staff from the local health departments and the Communicable Disease Branch are offering testing at stationary locations and are going door-to-door in communities across the state. Health educators are also conducting outreach events to educate the public on sexually transmitted diseases, particularly in areas with substantial increases in sexually transmitted diseases.

Large-scale testing events are also being held. In August, Forsyth County had a large-scale door-to-door community testing effort during which more than 600 people were tested.  A large testing event is planned in Wayne County for Friday, Nov. 6.

The Communicable Disease Branch has sent a Public Health Alert about the increase in syphilis to local health directors and health care providers. One key message is that people who contract syphilis, which is a preventable and easily treatable STD, are at increased risk of getting HIV. To help reverse the current disease trends, health providers and clinicians are being asked to increase their screening efforts to assure that people with HIV and or syphilis are diagnosed and treated early in their disease.

“Sexually transmitted diseases are not affecting one specific group of people,” said Foust. “It is important that anyone who is sexually active know their HIV and STD status in order to protect their health and the health of their partner. If you have not been tested for HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, contact your health care provider or your local health department and ask for a test,” she said.

The quarterly North Carolina HIV/STD Surveillance Report contains the most recent case statistics about syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV and AIDS for each quarter in the current year. It has statewide summaries of reports with breakdowns by sex, age group and race/ethnicity, as well as summaries of reports for each county. To view the report, visit To get information on testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, visit



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